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Wild swimming in the Lake District

Posted on 22nd April 2018 by CE Team

Wild swimming is becoming increasingly popular with visitors seeking more demanding outdoor activities in Lake District. For many, it is an extension of their keep-fit regime at home, or part of their regular training for triathlon competitions, and they are well aware of the dangers if common-sense precautions aren’t followed. As with all the outdoor things to do in Lake District, if you’ve never attempted wild swimming before, a little forward planning and basic safety precautions should ensure an enjoyable introduction to the wonderfully wet world of Lake District open-water swimming.

Lakes and tarns around Keswick and Windermere

If you’ve booked a break in one of our dog-friendly cottages in Keswick, or one of our cottages in Windermere, here are a few of the best lakes and tarns in which to enjoy your early morning wild swim. With a few suggestions to ensure you stay safe in the water.

Bassenthwaite Lake

A great lake for beginners through to experienced open water swimmers, Bassenthwaite is just a 15-minute drive from one of our Lake District cottages in Keswick. Approach the water from the A591, rather than the A66 which runs alongside the opposite bank. On the A591 side there are a number of smaller entry points to the lakeside. The Scarness entry point (just before the caravan park) is one of the most popular. It has a marked footpath and a slipway into the water. Boat traffic on the lake is also minimal, making it safer for swimmers of all levels.


Although you need to be aware of the increased water traffic on the lake, especially the tour boat which plies its trade up and down the waterway, Derwentwater is highly popular with visiting swimmers staying in our Lake District cottages. A mile wide and studded with beautiful islands, entry points can be found at Barrow Bay Peninsula, Cat Gill and Calfclose Bay on the east side of the water, with a similar number on the west. The nearby tarns of Watendlath, Blea, Sprinkling, Angle and the Styhead Tarn are also very popular and tend to be quieter. There is no swimming allowed at Thirlmere.

Lake Windermere and Coniston Water

The largest lake in England, Windermere is 10.5 miles long and over 200 feet deep. It is visited by over 15 million people each year, and is home to 10,000 registered boats and a number of ferry companies offering lake tours. On Windermere, swimming at the Waterhead end, and sticking to the west bank, should keep you relatively safe from the boats and ferries. Low Peel Beach and Peel Island are slightly quieter areas for swimming on Coniston Water.

If you want to keep away from the large stretches of water, Grasmere is just a mile long and half a mile wide, with a pretty privately owned island in the middle. Rydal Water is a 40-minute drive from our cottages in Windermere and smaller still, at just three-quarters of a mile long and a quarter-mile wide.

Safety First

Most of the myriad things to do in Lake District require some sort of dedicated kit and safety equipment. Open-water swimming is no different. Whether you are a complete beginner or professional athlete, outdoor activities in Lake District such as open-water swimming should be approached with personal safety in mind. A wetsuit is a good investment, it will help with buoyancy and keep you warmer. Invest in a bright day-glow swimming cap and bright safety buoy.

Never swim on your own, always have at least one other with you. Make sure someone at your cottage knows where you are going, and roughly what time you should return. Don’t swim near jetties or slipways where boat activity might be high. Finally, there are some excellent societies and associations around the Lakes which provide advice and courses to help you make the most of your new found interest in open-water swimming (like the one from the featured video).